I went to a motorcycle show on the weekend and was disappointed. Not because of the lack of cool stuff on display, but because there was nothing new that hadn't already been thrashed on bike blogs or youtube. These days by the time you see any product in the flesh, there are no surprises - the marketing teams have already made your ears and eyes bleed with promo shit (Apple being the exception, but that’s another kettle of fish). I’ll summarise my impressions with regards to the different marques.
Right now, I get the distinct feeling that Ducati and Yamaha are absolutely killing it and the other brands are getting left behind. Why? Depth of offerings. Yes Ducati is a luxury brand and Yamaha is perhaps more attainable for the masses, but they both have some super cool bikes on the market at the moment. I would be foolish not to say that I am bias towards companies offering something in the new ‘modern retro’ category, so this is perhaps the biggest reason I think these brands are killing it. Ducati has the best looking modern retro on the market at the moment in my opinion - the Scrambler. Which is now available in all sorts of finishes and styles and just looks the tits - I have the biggest soft spot for the desert sled (‘cos I love the XT500 so much and it reminds me of that). Yamaha has several models that fall into the modern retro category (think the faster sons bikes) and although I don't particularly like any of them, the offerings are there.
But I would be a narrow minded motorcycle enthusiast if I based this 'presence' and the apparent success of these brands on these types of bikes alone. What I noticed is that Yamaha and Ducati seem to have a bike for almost every market segment. This is the key. They have offerings for the speed-freaks, the sports bike nuts (including super expensive track-day variants), they have off road bikes, including big adventure bikes and they have daily thrasher nakeds - easily converted to street fighters. Win.
Right, the rest.
Honda, yawn. Except for the Africa Twin - what a brilliant, innovative machine. A total package, now with a 270 degree crank so it sounds orgasmic. Plus this new semi-automatic gearbox which seems promising. This bike will be Honda’s savior. Then you have the RC213, which is amazing but only about 10 people in the world can afford. But yeah, otherwise, yawn.
Suzuki, yaaaawn. Apart from mabe the Gladius? The SV650 is arguably a super influential bike and completely bomb proof and huge value for money. They have brought it back, updated it and it actually looks pretty cool.
Kawasaki, yaaaaaawn. A bit sad really. If you are not interested in stupid-insane power that their top of the line supercharged or 1000cc bikes offer, they got nothin’! At least since they dropped the W800, which was a beautiful bike.
Triumph, fuck yeah. Not far behind Ducati and Yamaha I rekon. Why? I see it like this… They have these uber cool modern retros right, which are only rivalled by the Ducati Scrambler in terms of looks (I am talking the Bonneville, Thruxton, Bobber), which would be enough of an offering for any of the other marques to crush it on the market. But then they also have an updated speed triple, which is a legend in its own right in the midsize street bike category, arguably created it’s own market segment. Plus, they have the legendary Tiger - an adventure bike king. What I like most about Triumph is the character they have managed to pull through into the modern era and tie into these modern bike offerings. As well as offering modern tech and performance in their 675.
Royal Enfield. I have a soft spot for these bikes. I will never own one but I see the appeal. They still pretty much offer the same two bikes they have done for a century (haha, I exaggerate). The Bullet is cool. And the Continental GT is even cooler. If only it had slightly better performance for a slightly lower price, it might have sold a few 1000 more. I think the new Himalaya shows big potential too, and I hope it sells well for them.
KTM do amazingly well for a company with apparently no retro-cool from the past to draw on. I have never been interested in buying one for myself, but I see the appeal, big time. They epitomize stupid-fun for me. And they create this with their mad performing engines, then mate that with a style that suits perfectly. Kudos to their engineering and styling departments. Oh, and they have this new cool electric free-ride bike that I hope gains traction - imagine being able to ride in the woods in silence. Or in places where you would otherwise not be allowed for noise and pollution restrictions. Nice.
Harley. Don’t get me started. Same boring old shit. Why not show an example of one of their sick 750G Dirt Tracker bikes? No variety whatsoever and the area was filled with wannabe gang bangers buying an image rather than a motorcycle. Sad. I actually think Harleys are awesome machines, but this is completely overshadowed by the tribe of mid-life crises, ‘buy me the tough guy look’, ‘got no taste or style of my own’, 50+ year olds. Then they have the whole metal music thing going on and the whiskey branding etc. Yuck. I would just like to add that if you own and ride a pre-Evo Harley, you are probably a real man. A genuine enthusiast ;)
Of no interest:
Zero - electric bikes the same as they were 6 years ago.
Victory - try hard Harley after the same no-brained crowd.
Indian - see above, add try hard fake historic branding and marketing.
Ural - who would buy something made in Russia??? Think Lada!
BMW - R9T Cafe Racer, Scrambler etc? Yuck. Overwieght, water buffalo adventure bikes? Yuck-er. Mid size plastic versions of overweight water buffalo's, yucker still!
Aprilia - bring back the SXV450 and 550, then we can talk. Wait, I take it back, any engine with the V4 mill is an absolute legend, apologies.
Moto Guzzi - Schizophrenic design department - the most ugly machines on the market, then one piece of brilliance, the V-7. But that's beating a dead horse isn't it?
Yes, I am a cynical, bias, opinionated prick. But I love motorcycles ;)